Pat Metheny

Pat Metheny
Metheny in 2010
Metheny in 2010
Background information
Birth namePatrick Bruce Metheny
Born (1954-08-12) August 12, 1954 (age 69)
Lee's Summit, Missouri, U.S.
  • Musician
  • composer
  • producer
  • professor
Years active1974–present

Patrick Bruce Metheny (/məˈθni/ mə-THEE-nee; born August 12, 1954) is an American jazz guitarist and composer.[1]

He was the leader of the Pat Metheny Group (1977–2010) and continues to work in various small-combo, duet, and solo settings, as well as other side projects. His style incorporates elements of progressive and contemporary jazz, latin jazz, and jazz fusion.[2] He has three gold albums and 20 Grammy Awards,[3][4] and is the only person to have won Grammys in 10 categories.


Early years and education[edit]

Metheny was born in Lee's Summit, Missouri. His father Dave played trumpet, his mother Lois sang, and his maternal grandfather Delmar was a professional trumpeter.[5][6] Metheny's first instrument was the trumpet, on which he was taught by his brother, Mike. Pat's brother, father, and grandfather played trios together at home. His parents were fans of Glenn Miller and swing music. They took Pat to concerts to hear Clark Terry and Doc Severinsen, but they had little respect for guitar. Pat's interest in guitar increased around 1964 when he saw the Beatles perform on TV. For his 12th birthday, his parents allowed him to buy a guitar, which was a Gibson ES-140 3/4.[7]

Pat Metheny's life changed after hearing the album Four & More by Miles Davis. Soon after, he was captivated by Wes Montgomery's album Smokin' at the Half Note which was released in 1965. He cites the Beatles, Miles Davis, and Montgomery as having the biggest impact on his music.[7]

When he was 15, Metheny won a scholarship from Down Beat magazine to a one-week jazz camp where he was mentored by guitarist Attila Zoller, who then invited him to New York City to meet guitarist Jim Hall and bassist Ron Carter.[8]

While playing at a club in Kansas City, Metheny was approached by Bill Lee, a dean at the University of Miami, and offered a scholarship. After less than a week at college, Metheny realized that playing guitar all day during his teens had left him unprepared for classes. He admitted this to Lee, who offered him a job to teach as a professor, as the school had recently introduced electric guitar as a course of study.[7]

He moved to Boston to teach at the Berklee College of Music with jazz vibraphonist Gary Burton[8] and established a reputation as a prodigy.[9]

Debut album[edit]

Metheny at KJAZ radio, Alameda, California, December 1980

In 1974, he appeared on an album unofficially titled Jaco with pianist Paul Bley, bassist Jaco Pastorius, and drummer Bruce Ditmas on Carol Goss's Improvising Artists label—but he was unaware that he was being recorded.[10] The next year he joined Gary Burton's band with guitarist Mick Goodrick.

Metheny released his debut album, Bright Size Life (ECM, 1976), with Jaco Pastorius on bass guitar and Bob Moses on drums. His next album, Watercolors (ECM, 1977), was the first time he recorded with pianist Lyle Mays, who became his most frequent collaborator. The album also featured Danny Gottlieb, who became the drummer for the first version of the Pat Metheny Group.[11] With Metheny, Mays, and Gottlieb, the fourth member was bassist Mark Egan when the album Pat Metheny Group (ECM, 1978) was released.

Pat Metheny Group[edit]

Left to right: Steve Rodby and Metheny

When Pat Metheny Group (ECM, 1978) was released, the group was a quartet comprising, besides Metheny, Danny Gottlieb on drums, Mark Egan on bass, and Lyle Mays on piano, autoharp, and synthesizer. All but Egan had played on Metheny's album Watercolors (ECM, 1977), recorded a year before the first group album.[7]

The second group album, American Garage (ECM, 1979), reached number 1 on the Billboard jazz chart and crossed over onto the pop charts. From 1982 to 1985, the Pat Metheny Group released Offramp (ECM, 1982), a live album, Travels (ECM, 1983), First Circle (ECM, 1984), and The Falcon and the Snowman (EMI, 1985), a soundtrack album for the movie of the same name for which they collaborated on the single "This Is Not America" with David Bowie. The song reached number 14 in the British Top 40 in 1985 and number 32 in the U.S.[12]

Offramp marked the first appearance of bassist Steve Rodby (replacing Egan) and a Brazilian guest artist, Nana Vasconcelos, on percussion and wordless vocals. On First Circle, Argentinian singer and multi-instrumentalist Pedro Aznar joined the group; as drummer, Paul Wertico replaced Gottlieb. Both Rodby and Wertico were members of the Simon and Bard Group at the time and had played in Simon-Bard in Chicago before joining Metheny.[citation needed]

First Circle was Metheny's last album with ECM; he had been a key artist for the label but left following disagreements with the label's founder, Manfred Eicher.[13]

Still Life (Talking) (Geffen, 1987) featured new group members trumpeter Mark Ledford, vocalist David Blamires, and percussionist Armando Marçal. Aznar returned for vocals and guitar on Letter from Home (Geffen, 1989).

During this period the Steppenwolf Theater Company of Chicago featured compositions by Metheny and Mays for their production of Lyle Kessler's play Orphans, where it has remained special optional music for all productions of the play around the world since.[14]

Metheny then again delved into solo and band projects, and four years went by before the release of the next group record, a live album titled The Road to You (Geffen, 1993), which featured tracks from the two Geffen studio albums among new tunes. The group integrated new instrumentation and technologies into its work, notably Mays' use of synthesizers.

Metheny and Mays themselves refer to the next three Pat Metheny Group releases as a triptych:[citation needed] We Live Here (Geffen, 1995), Quartet (Geffen, 1996), and Imaginary Day (Warner Bros., 1997). Moving away from the Latin style which had dominated the releases of the previous ten years, these albums included experiments with sequenced synthetic drums on one track, free-form improvisation on acoustic instruments, and symphonic signatures, blues, and sonata schemes.[citation needed]

With Speaking of Now (Warner Bros., 2002), new group members were added: drummer Antonio Sánchez from Mexico City, trumpeter Cuong Vu from Vietnam, and bassist, vocalist, guitarist, and percussionist Richard Bona from Cameroon.

The Way Up (Nonesuch, 2005) consists of a single 68-minute-long piece—split into four sections—based on a pair of three-note kernels: the opening B, A, F and the derived B, A, F. On The Way Up, harmonica player Grégoire Maret from Switzerland was introduced as a new group member, while Bona contributed as a guest musician.

Side projects[edit]

Outside the Group, Metheny has shown different sides of his musical personality. He made the album Orchestrion (Nonesuch, 2010) with elaborate, custom mechanical instruments which allowed him to compose and perform as a one-person orchestra. By contrast, his album Secret Story (Geffen, 1992) used orchestral arrangements found more often in movie soundtracks, such as his own The Falcon and the Snowman (EMI, 1985) and A Map of the World (Warner Bros., 1999). His solo acoustic guitar albums include New Chautauqua (ECM, 1979), One Quiet Night (Warner Bros., 2003), and What's It All About (Nonesuch, 2011). He explored the fringes of the avant-garde on Zero Tolerance for Silence (Geffen, 1994). This, too, was an album of solo guitar, but it was electric guitar. Metheny had ventured into the avant-garde before on 80/81 (ECM, 1980), Song X (Geffen, 1986) with Ornette Coleman, and The Sign of Four with Derek Bailey (Knitting Factory Works, 1997).

In 1997, Metheny recorded with bassist Marc Johnson on Johnson's release The Sound of Summer Running (Verve, 1998). The next year, he recorded a guitar duet with Jim Hall (Telarc, 1999), whose work has strongly influenced Metheny's. He collaborated with Polish jazz and folk singer Anna Maria Jopek on Upojenie (Warner Poland, 2002) and Bruce Hornsby on Hot House (RCA, 2005).

He recorded on albums by his older brother, Mike Metheny, a jazz trumpeter, among them Day In – Night Out (1986) and Close Enough for Love (2001).[15][16]

The long list of his collaborators includes Lyle Mays, Bill Frisell, Billy Higgins, Brad Mehldau, Charlie Haden, Chick Corea, Dave Holland, Dewey Redman, Eberhard Weber, Herbie Hancock, Jack DeJohnette, Jaco Pastorius, Jim Hall, John Scofield, Joni Mitchell, David Bowie, Joshua Redman, Marc Johnson, Michael Brecker, Mick Goodrick, Roy Haynes, Steve Swallow, and Tony Williams.[17]

Unity Band[edit]

In 2012, he formed the Unity Band with Antonio Sánchez on drums, Ben Williams on bass and Chris Potter on saxophone. This ensemble toured Europe and the U.S. during the latter half of the year. In 2013, as an extension of the Unity Band project, Metheny announced the formation of the Pat Metheny Unity Group, with the addition of the Italian multi-instrumentalist Giulio Carmassi.


As a young guitarist, Metheny tried to sound like Wes Montgomery, but when he was 14 or 15, he decided it was disrespectful to imitate him.[18] In the liner notes on the 2-disc Montgomery compilation Impressions: The Verve Jazz Sides, Metheny is quoted as saying, "Smokin' at the Half Note is the absolute greatest jazz-guitar album ever made. It is also the record that taught me how to play."

Ornette Coleman's 1968 album New York Is Now! inspired Metheny to find his own direction.[19] He has recorded Coleman's compositions on a number of albums, starting with a medley of "Round Trip" and "Broadway Blues" on his debut album, Bright Size Life (1976). He worked extensively with Coleman's collaborators, such as Charlie Haden, Dewey Redman, and Billy Higgins, and he recorded the album Song X (1986) with Coleman and toured with him.

Metheny made three albums on ECM with Brazilian vocalist and percussionist Naná Vasconcelos. He lived in Brazil from the late 1980s to the early 1990s and performed with several local musicians, such as Milton Nascimento and Toninho Horta. He played with Antônio Carlos Jobim as a tribute, in a live performance in Carnegie Hall Salutes The Jazz Masters: Verve 50th Anniversary.

He is also a fan of several pop music artists, especially singer/songwriters including James Taylor (after whom he named the song "James" on Offramp); Bruce Hornsby, Cheap Trick, and Joni Mitchell, with whom he performed on her Shadows and Light (Asylum/Elektra, 1980) live tour. Metheny is also fond of Buckethead's music. He also worked with, sponsored or helped to make recordings of singer/songwriters from all over the world, such as Pedro Aznar (Argentina), Akiko Yano (Japan), David Bowie (UK), Silje Nergaard (Norway), Noa (Israel), and Anna Maria Jopek (Poland).[20]

Two of Metheny's albums, The Way Up (2005) and Orchestrion (2010), show the influence of American minimalist composer Steve Reich and use similar rhythmic figures structured around pulse. Metheny recorded Reich's composition Electric Counterpoint on Reich's album Different Trains (Nonesuch, 1987).



Metheny with the 42-string Pikasso

Metheny plays a custom-made 42-string Pikasso I created by Canadian luthier Linda Manzer. He plays it on "Into the Dream" and on the albums Quartet (1996), Imaginary Day (1997), Jim Hall & Pat Metheny (1999), Trio → Live (Warner Bros., 2000), and the Speaking of Now Live and Imaginary Day Live DVDs. Metheny has used the guitar in his guest appearances on other artists' albums. He used the Pikasso on Metheny/Mehldau Quartet (Nonesuch, 2007), his second collaboration with pianist Brad Mehldau and his trio sidemen Larry Grenadier and Jeff Ballard; the Pikasso is featured on Metheny's composition "The Sound of Water". Manzer has made many acoustic guitars for Metheny, including a mini guitar, an acoustic sitar guitar, and the baritone guitar, which Metheny used for the recording of One Quiet Night (2003).

Guitar synthesizer[edit]

Metheny with the guitar synthesizer

Metheny was one of the first jazz guitarists to use the Roland GR-300 guitar synthesizer. He commented, "you have to stop thinking about it as a guitar, because it no longer is a guitar." He approaches it as if he were a horn player, and he prefers the "high trumpet" sound of the instrument.[21] One of the patches that he has often used is on Roland's JV-80 "Vintage Synth" expansion card, titled "Pat's GR-300".[citation needed] In addition to the Roland, he uses a Synclavier controller.[21]

Six-string and twelve-string electric[edit]

Metheny was an early proponent of the twelve-string guitar in jazz. During his 1975 tour with the Gary Burton "Quartet" (five people, including Metheny), he primarily played electric twelve-string guitar against the six-string work of resident guitarist Mick Goodrick.[22]

Prior to Metheny, Pat Martino had used the electric twelve-string guitar on a studio album, Desperado, and John McLaughlin had used a double-neck electric guitar with the Mahavishnu Orchestra. Ralph Towner was perhaps the first[23] to use acoustic twelve-string guitar extensively in jazz ("The Moors", from Weather Report's I Sing the Body Electric, Columbia, 1972), and Larry Coryell and Philip Catherine made extensive use of acoustic twelve string in alternate tunings at the 1975 Montreux Jazz Festival, later releasing some of the material on their 1976 Twin House album.[citation needed]

Metheny used a twelve-string guitar on his debut album, Bright Size Life (1976), including alternate tuning on "Sirabhorn", and on later albums ("San Lorenzo", from Pat Metheny Group and Travels).[citation needed]

Use of hollow-body electric guitars[edit]

Metheny with his Ibanez PM signature model

At the age of 12, Metheny bought a natural finish Gibson ES-175 that he played throughout his early career, until it was retired in 1995.[24] After his first tour of Japan in 1978, he began an association with Ibanez guitars, who have since produced a range of PM signature models.[25]

Personal life[edit]

Metheny is the younger brother of jazz flugelhornist Mike Metheny. He lives in New York City with his wife, Latifa (née Azhar), and three children. Latifa has been credited for album photography.[26][27][28] Metheny was once in a relationship with Sônia Braga.[29]

Awards and honors[edit]

  • Only artist to win Grammy Awards in ten different categories[30]
  • DownBeat Hall of Fame, 2013
  • Miles Davis Award, Montreal International Jazz Festival, 1995
  • Orville H. Gibson Award, 1996
  • Honorary Doctorate of Music from Berklee College of Music, 1996[31]
  • Guitarist of the Year, DownBeat Readers' Poll, 1983, 1986–1991, 2007–2016
  • Best Jazz Guitarist, Guitar Player magazine, 1982, 1983, 1986
  • Best Jazz Guitarist, Guitar Player magazine Readers' Poll, 1984, 1985, 2009
  • Best Acoustic Guitarist, Acoustic Guitar magazine Readers' Poll, 2009
  • Echo Award for Best Guitar Instrumentalist – International for TAP: John Zorn's Book of Angels Vol. 20, 2014
  • Echo Award, International Ensemble of the Year, Kin, 2015
  • Missouri Music Hall of Fame, 2016
  • Lifetime Achievement Award, JazzFM, 2018
  • Elected into Royal Swedish Academy of Music, 2018
  • 2018 NEA Jazz Masters, 2017[32][33]
  • Honorary Doctorate of Music from McGill University, 2019

Grammy Awards[edit]

Year Category Title Note
2013 Best Jazz Instrumental Album Unity Band With the Unity Band
2012 Best New Age Album What's It All About
2008 Best Jazz Instrumental Album Pilgrimage (Won as producer)
2006 Best Contemporary Jazz Album The Way Up Pat Metheny Group
2004 Best New Age Album One Quiet Night
2003 Best Contemporary Jazz Album Speaking of Now Pat Metheny Group
2001 Best Jazz Instrumental Solo "(Go) Get It" (Won as soloist)
2000 Best Jazz Instrumental Performance Like Minds With Chick Corea, Dave Holland, Gary Burton, Roy Haynes
1999 Best Rock Instrumental Performance "The Roots of Coincidence" Pat Metheny Group
1999 Best Contemporary Jazz Performance Imaginary Day Pat Metheny Group
1998 Best Jazz Instrumental Performance Beyond the Missouri Sky With Charlie Haden
1996 Best Contemporary Jazz Performance We Live Here Pat Metheny Group
1994 Best Contemporary Jazz Performance The Road to You Pat Metheny Group
1993 Best Contemporary Jazz Performance Secret Story
1991 Best Instrumental Composition "Change of Heart" (Won as composer)
1990 Best Jazz Fusion Performance Letter from Home Pat Metheny Group
1988 Best Jazz Fusion Performance Still Life (Talking) Pat Metheny Group
1985 Best Jazz Fusion Performance First Circle Pat Metheny Group
1984 Best Jazz Fusion Performance Travels Pat Metheny Group
1983 Best Jazz Fusion Performance Offramp Pat Metheny Group



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  5. ^ "Lois Hansen Metheny's Obituary on Kansas City Star". Kansas City Star. Retrieved March 14, 2018.
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  10. ^ "GUITARIST INTERVIEW with Pat Metheny". April 23, 2001. Retrieved December 28, 2023. I didn't know that it was to become an album – none of us did. I showed up to this place that I thought was a rehearsal hall and it turned out to be a recording studio.
  11. ^ Ginell, Richard. "Watercolors". AllMusic. Retrieved January 11, 2017.
  12. ^ Molanphy, Chris (January 12, 2016). "David Bowie's Blackstar Could Be His First No. 1 Album. We Can Do This, America". Slate. ISSN 1091-2339. Retrieved May 14, 2017.
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  14. ^ Kessler, Lyle (1985). Orphans. pp. Copyrights.
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  20. ^ "Pat Metheny". Pat Metheny. Retrieved July 19, 2011.
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  22. ^ Cooke, Mervyn (2017). Pat Metheny: The ECM years, 1975–1984. Oxford University Press. p. 38.
  23. ^ Cline, Nels (August 2017). "Focused: An appreciation of the genre-bending guitar work of Ralph Towner". Fretboard Journal. Retrieved June 24, 2020.
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  26. ^ Ruggeri, Paolo (March 2018). "'Beyond the Missouri Sky' – Pat Metheny in acustico". Theses. Università Iuav di Venezia. Retrieved July 3, 2022.
  27. ^ Pat Metheny Group. "Imaginary Day – CD (1997, Digipak)". (in German). Retrieved July 3, 2022.
  28. ^ Metheny, Pat. "A Map Of The World". Guitar Records (in Japanese). Retrieved July 3, 2022.
  29. ^ "Pat Metheny fala sobre relação com a ex-namorada Sônia Braga: 'Vou amá-la para sempre'". TV Globo (in Brazilian Portuguese). June 7, 2021. Retrieved July 3, 2022.
  30. ^ "Pat Metheny: Awards". Retrieved January 13, 2017.
  31. ^ "Pat Metheny : Bio". Retrieved December 30, 2017.
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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]